Eight days after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, a band that was connected with the 102nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry played a memorial concert from atop the Burleson Home in Decatur.
The band’s master had been fired for drunkenness about two weeks before the assassination, but some of the same soldiers who had voted in Decatur for Lincoln in 1864 listened with somber ears, art historian Frances Osborn Robb said.
A photographer also made at least one picture as soldiers, camped on ground near Wilson Street, listened.
Robb, who has written a book about photographers and historic photographs in Alabama from 1839-1941, showed the picture and talked about it to a group of Decatur historians on Tuesday at the Alabama Center for the Arts.
“This is rare, extremely rare,” Morgan County Archivist John Allison said about the photo, which is part of the Ann McEntire Tankersley Collection in Birmingham.
Robb — as part of Alabama’s bicentennial celebration — has been traveling the state talking to people about historic photographs.
She said she has always been amazed that people will spend “hours and days" reading complicated documents, but get stymied and “quit quickly” when looking at historic photographs they don’t understand.
Robb’s book, "Shot in Alabama," chronicles the work of hundreds of amateur and professional photographers.
So much is known about the 102nd Ohio Regiment’s time in Decatur because Private Jonas Bughman of Company C wrote about the unit in his diary.
He wrote that the Burleson Home was the Union Army’s headquarters and that he voted for Lincoln in November 1864. Bughman also wrote about the band playing in Decatur, but the photograph “captured the moment and leaves no doubt,” Robb said.
In her book, which includes other photographs from the era in Decatur, Robb wrote: “The 102nd’s band, prized for its sweet and soul-stirring airs and renditions of 'The Star Spangled Banner,' played toward the encampment from the cupola of regimental headquarters.”
She said pictures have the ability to “take you to places” and that’s “what the picture at the Burleson Home does.”
The Burleson Home, which is also known as the Burleson-Hinds-McEntire house to reflect owners since the Civil War, is at Sycamore Street Northwest and Market Street near the banks of the Tennessee River. Construction on it started in 1824, and the home was completed around 1835. The Greek Revival home was sold in 1998 by Tankersley, whose family had owned the home for 105 years, current owner Berval Bennett said last year.
Allison said the Morgan County Archives has several pictures of Civil War era Decatur, which was occupied at various times by Union and Confederate armies.
“They are moments in our history, frozen forever,” he said.